Sunday, May 31, 2009

Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Kids

I will be posting explanations, instructions, plans and recipes for the following children's activities over the next few weeks. Some are new twists on old things. Some are just old things. In fact, some are so old I did them when I was a child. "Sling the Statue" and "Kick the Can" are two such outdoor activity and favorites on my block in the 1950's. I hope to be able to do this for each season.

Sidewalk chalk & hop scotch – Sand castles on tarp w/ hose – Ice sliding on tarp – Jump rope (tying off one end) – Landscape timber balance beam – Tether ball – Pool full of balls – Pool full of bubbles – Bean Tent sandbox: Plans – Streamer/Flyer: Instructions – Making kite tails – Kite flying – Bubble Recipe – Slime Recipe – Treasure Rocks: Recipe - Mud puddle & pies – Making Boats out of paint stirrers – Pinwheels - Shower curtains for stage play – Make a PiƱata – Painting Rocks for rock garden – Leaf Babies – Make a Secret Garden – Limbo – Squirt-painting an old, hanging sheet – Sack races – Wheelbarrow Races – Head to Toe: partnership rolling – Lock Arms: stand n’ sit – Royal Chair – Duck, Duck, Goose – Red Light, Green Light – Kick the Can – Flashlight Tag – Sling the Statue – Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button – Musical Chairs – Simon Says – Mother May I? – Library – Berry Picking – Local free park w/ ice cream ball

When Saving Money - Isn't

Is there a difference in saving money and saving the money? When we generally spend $200 a week on groceries and are able to cut that down to $150 a week, one would think that we’d be saving $50 a week, about $200 a month, $2,400 a year. How can that be wrong?

It is wrong when we don’t have the right attitude, mindset, focus and determination. When we consider the savings as “extra money” we quickly find that we don’t have it any more. Because extra money has a way of slipping through our fingers like so much beach sand, the best way to actually save it is to get it out of our hands.

Think of that handful of bills and coins
growing. Think of it becoming enough to open a savings account. Think of the savings account growing to more than a thousand dollars. When we reach that point, we can think of it growing to $10,000. That is the attitude. That is the focus which will turn a few dollars here and a few dollars there into real savings, real money.

When we want our money to grow, more than we want the things it can buy, we have adjusted our mindset. Crossing that first $100 mark, the first $500 mark, can be as inspiring as the latest electronic gizmo, the finest pitching wedge, the smartest new dress.

Start with a jar or a piggy bank. Count the contents often. Include family members if they are on-board with the savings plan. Rejoice with each new addition. Even after the savings account is opened, continue to save in the piggy bank and make account deposits only monthly. See how often you can deposit more this month than last month. Before you know it, you will find yourself taking a deep breath and feeling free. It’s a very nice feeling.

Table Rescue - Details

This 36” table was just the right size and style for Jill. The problem was that Jill is a very classy woman with impeccable taste and the table was not only old but in horrible condition; not just the finish but bits of veneer were curling or flaked away, and someone’s probably beloved pet had obviously used a corner of the base for a chew toy.

Still, Jill’s family was in the process of downsizing and extreme belt tightening and relocating to a much smaller home.
She needed a smaller table and the $10 yard sale price tag was more than she could resist.

We decided not to try to camouflage the flaws but to celebrate the age and wear by treating the table as a family heirloom.With so little original finish remaining, it was not necessary to sand the surface. It was wiped down well and painted flat black with a brush, being careful not to get paint in dents and dings and chew marks – as if the obviously aged damage had been done after the table acquired its black finish.

Next, the names of grandchildren were computer printed, as large as possible.
The pages of names were cut into strips with one name centered on each strip.

Guidelines were drawn in chalk and the name strips were placed and adjusted to be equal distances apart.
Tiny pieces of tape marked the spaces between the names. Then each name was written between the tape markers using a white paint pen.

Finally, paint dots were centered between the names.
The writing was aged by going over the white lines with a small brush and water-thinned brown craft acrylic and lightly splattered with the flat black.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mercy & Truth - nature appreciation necklaces

it's really an excuse to spend time with grandchildren.

I purchased Sculpey brand clay for the children to make Mother's Day gifts and they enjoyed it so much that I thought we'd try another project. I remembered seeing a "Dinosaur Art Project" making "Fossil Casts" on one of my favorite blogs - "that artist woman". Tailoring her basic idea to our materials and tying the entire project to our current topics, the children and I had a
good time, shared a bit of adventure, brought their recent Bible Study into play and ended up with necklaces for each of them.

Materials included: Sculpey clay, a drinking straw, acrylic craft paint & brushes, colored magazine pages, white glue, large jump rings and leather laces.

After rolling their clay into balls about the size of a small egg and pressing them flat to about 1/4" thick, we went for a Nature walk to find twigs and rigid leaves for making impressions.

The children used a piece of a drinking straw to punch out holes for hanging. The clay clogged one end of the straw with the first punch so we used the other end for the second punch. As the trapped air forced the first clay plug out of the end of the straw, I thought it would be a good time to teach about displacement so I asked if any of them knew why the first clay popped out as they plugged the second end. Without hesitation, the 6 year old replied, "air pressure" and the 8 year old chimed in to quickly give me a lesson in physics. I was impressed...Oh, did I fail to mention that the children are home-schooled? (continued - link here)

Mercy & Truth - necklaces - Part 2

After baking the clay to harden it, the pendants were painted and the excess wiped away.

The children's recent Bible Study - Proverbs 3:3 - was a natural for inclusion into this project.
"Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them around thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:"

Long tapered, triangle strips of magazine pictures were cut out, 2 for each necklace and the children wrote 'Mercy' on one and 'Truth' on the other. The papers were then spread with white glue and wrapped around drinking straws, beginning with the large end, to make beads. The straws were cut to fit.

I sprayed the beads with gloss acrylic and the pendants with matte acrylic and added the jump rings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Find Cash In Your Kitchen

I began writing "Find Cash In Your Kitchen" because several friends asked for my advice as they struggled with failing finances. If the ups and downs of my own life have taught me nothing else, they have driven home the value of thrift. Though reducing the family's food budget may seem an odd, even extreme, place to begin cutting costs, it was chosen deliberately. The reason is that success in cutting the food budget is dependent on a change in the way we think. Once that is accomplished, there are no limits. Savings can be found almost anywhere.

FIND CASH IN YOUR KITCHEN details organization, skills and methods that can actually result in spending less and saving more.

It is available now.

Buttermilk for Cooking

Make sour milk, a cooking substitute for buttermilk. In a NON-metal measuring cup, add 1 Tbsp. of either Vinegar or Lemon Juice and fill with regular sweet milk to total 1 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Click HERE for one of the best and quickest recipes for making buttermilk biscuits from scratch.

Powdered Sugar Substitute

In a pinch, you can make your own powdered sugar in a food processor. Blend 1/2 cup plus 1Tbsp. Granulated Sugar with 1 Tbsp. Corn Starch. Process to a fine powder.

Coconut too dry?

Shredded or flaked coconut that has dried out can be re-hydrated by soaking it in milk for a half hour or so. Remember to use the milk in your recipe or save it to add to your next smoothie. Don't cook with coconut often? Check out these 2,643 coconut recipes. Yum!

Aging Bananas?

If bananas are ripening faster than you can find time to use them, here are a couple of options:
+ Put unpeeled bananas in the freezer to eat as "Banana Pops" or as suggested by a reader, use them for making banana bread (thanks Michelle).
+ Peel bananas, bag and freeze in quantities suitable for adding to fruit smoothies.
+ Peel and thinly slice bananas and place them in the dehydrator overnight for crisp banana chips...a great addition to trail-type mix or hot cereals.

Diaper Shaped Nut/Mint Cups

Two of these can be cut from a single sheet of card stock. Use a Corsage Pin to set holes for the tiny safety pins. Because of the "leg holes" in the diaper, these need to be lined to keep the contents from spilling out. I used tissue and muffin papers.

Guest Favors

The wrappers are 3" x 11" which allows two to be cut from one sheet of card stock. Begin by applying your pattern to the card stock. Cut 3" wide strips. Measure 1" from one end of the strip and fold it over to make the closing flap. Without creasing the remainder of the strip, pull the other end up and tuck it under the flap. Punch 2 holes (for ribbon). Holding the two ends in
position, open the flap and trim each edge to

shape the wrapper. Form the bottom by creasing approximately 3/4" on either side of center.

Using the bridal sachet bags both solved and created a problem. I didn't have to hand make them but they needed to be attached to the wrappers. I attached them by threading the ends of the drawstrings through the holes on the front side (only) of the wrapper. Then, the flap was folded over, all 3 sets of holes aligned and additional ribbons were threaded through and tied in a bow.

Candy Pacifier Decorations

These have been around for a long time. I think most people connect the Life Savers together and attach either a jellybean or a gum drop using icing. I didn't. I actually used glue. Of course that meant I had to warn my guests but I thought the glue would dry faster and hold better and it did.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


With a photograph of the mother's and the father's hands wrapped around their precious new life, I cropped and tweaked and printed small photographs for the invitations. Since I was limited to my supply of plain white card stock, the blue background was achieved with just a few brush strokes of ordinary craft paint severely thinned with water. That set the tone for all the rest of the homemade decorations - a brush stroke of blue. Mounting the little photographs
on scraps of card stock trimmed with pinking shears, provided the white frame on the blue field. the rest was just computer printing, a bow and a button.

Monday, May 11, 2009


This is a favorite family recipe, especially around the holidays. It is super simple and takes only a couple of minutes to throw together.

Preheat oven to 350

Combine the following in a bowl & stir well to coat:
1 cup Light Brown Sugar - packed
1/4 cup Heavy (whipping) Cream
4 cups Pecan Halves

Spread into a 9" x 13" pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes - stirring once at the 10 to 15 minute point.
Remove from oven to cool and stir once more after about 5 minutes.

Once pecans have cooled thoroughly, store them in an airtight container.